Yad waSheim should change its longstanding, erroneous focus on Gentiles
What I noticed over the years is that in the Netherlands, four groups were statistically overrepresented in the Resistance against the Nazis:
1. Jews. They knew what was happening in Germany.
2. Communists. They knew what was happening in Germany.
3. Homosexuals. They knew what was happening in Germany.
4. Dutch Protestants. They understood this administration is evil.
It seems that the following uncouth assumptions underlie Yad waSheim‘s regrettable policy against equally recognizing Jewish WW II heroism:
1. “The Jews had nothing to lose.” That is untrue and insulting. Gentile Communists and homosexuals too had nothing to lose, but they are recognized. And the resistance by Jews too was often heroic and selfless. My parents were typical examples of that. They risked their very lives for others, over and over again. Since when is that not meritorious?
2. “Of course, Jews were looking out for themselves. That’s not laudable.” That smacks after antisemitism. Many young Jews were idealists fighting evil, not all as Jews. My mother’s only sibling was more a Communist than a Jew when he joined the Resistance. Fredy Hirsch fought for the children because he was selfish or had nothing to lose? They were just selfish Jews?
3. “After 2,000 years, we can’t expect Gentiles to stand up for Jews. These surprising exceptions must be honored.” This cynicism about non-Jews is understandable but wrong. Whole nations, villages, churches, and families stood up against Nazi evil. Yes, they all were exceptions, but many of those who tried to save Jews never bragged about it because they didn’t see what they did as extraordinary. They just saw no alternative to not colluding with evil. Being astonished about that almost gives all hating or indifferent Gentiles a free pass as in: what can you expect of Gentiles?
4. “Of course, Jews resisted.” That was not self-evident at all. Jews don’t have a militaristic culture. They didn’t have a military or police force for millennia. Only some who went to Palestine learned to use weapons to protect against Muslim terrorism. To not honor Jews who resisted fortifies the baseless myth that Jews were led as lambs to the slaughter. While Gentiles who resisted were exceptions, resisting Jews were much more common. Yet, that doesn’t make their heroism less brave or less selfless.
Yad waSheim issued many books presenting the Righteous among the Nations per country. Such books presenting the Righteous among the Jews might cover many more pages. Is that a reason not to publish them?
5. “Jews were helpless victims.” Victimized Jews may bring more sympathy than assertive ones. But a small corner at the Yad waSheim website doesn’t do justice to the widespread and important Jewish resistance.
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust do award Jewish Rescuers Citations. An example to follow. Better late than never.
I call upon Yad waSheim to finally correct this historic mistake and start recognizing the countless Jews who resisted the Nazis and helped Jews.